I played: The Red Strings Club

A beautiful pixel art game that is part mystic bartender sim and part future hacking adventure, created by Deconstructeam in 2018. I first came across the game largely due a controversy at the time about the mandatory path in the hacker portion of the game including discovering the deadname of a trans person and then exploiting this information.

It was met first with condemnation of normalizing of dead naming, followed by a comment from the trans development team member who explained that they felt it was an important inclusion due to it being a reality of being a trans person, particularly their experience. They also pointed out that, this plot point aside it’s very welcoming to LGBT people.

Really the the most confusing part of it all is that is honestly not the inclusion of it, nor the application of it – but rather how oddly it sits within the overall narrative and themes within the game. It also presents an interesting issue in terms of understanding representations of groups one is not a part of… and oddly, perhaps the solution too.

The Red Strings Club is essentially the presentation of a philosophical dialog about free will, morality, mental health and justification of unorthodox actions (lying, breaking laws, etc). Is it better to conform or to raise your middle finger to the rules?

Akara-184 says, "To properly answer that question I'll need to delve deeper into the meaning and implication of "rules"."

The whole process is coated in some amazing world building and character development, but it is essentially video game characters taking the roles of Socrates and the rest of people that Plato (totally reliably, honest) wrote about.

The unique mechanic in the game that facilitates these conversations is the mixing of cocktails with supernatural mood altering powers – a part which I found particularly compelling as a bon vivant. The cocktails can make your patrons depressed, excited or horny. This is the kind of realism in games that I’m all for.

The later portion of the game becomes a “hacking” sequence which, like the bar, reaches surprising levels of realism by not being about solving mini-games or math puzzles disguised as games – but rather through looking for weaknesses in people’s routines and then manipulating people into exposing more weaknesses.

Overall the game is not a conventional game (which I consider a plus), rather it is certainly a pretty interesting exploration issues that are very topic in the world we live in. It is definitely worth the time to play as an arthouse experience – though I strongly recommend that follow the game’s guidance to question everything as play. (Honestly, more games should do this kind of genuine philosophical approach).

The protagonists of the game all ask questions, all question whether something is good or bad – then they draw their own conclusions and contemplate the best path forward.

It doesn’t always work out, but it’s always the best they can do.

Screencap from the bar, Donovan the bartender says, "Ok. But don't be reckless"
This game is full of wisdom.

Further discussion including spoilers is below the cut.

Continue reading I played: The Red Strings Club